“Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path” – Psalms 119:105
We were climbing a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado with a large group of teenagers participating in a Christian Youth Leadership Conference. A smaller group of 15 or 20 had for some reason fallen behind the main group of hikers. The young staff person with them decided to take a shortcut to catch up, so he led them off the trail in what he thought was the way a crow would fly to cut off the separating distance. He thought, if we just hike over this ridge we can go down the other side and meet up with them. But, after going up the heavily forested ridge and down the other side, the main group was nowhere in sight. No problem, he thought, we just need to go over one more ridge.
Now these Colorado mountain ridges were no small feat to hike. They were steep and rugged. So after the second ridge which took some time and great effort, there was still no sign of the main group. Must be just one more, he thought. Well, after 3 more ridges, this smaller group of young people and their lost leader did not get back to camp until long after dinner, and did not even get to the top of the 14,000-foot peak. The main group not only summited, but were all back in plenty of time for dinner. The stragglers came in late, completely bushed, and never came close to the main route to the top of the peak. What appeared to be a shortcut turned out to be a mighty, fatiguing, and most difficult fool’s errand!
It is easy to get lost in the wilderness. What seems to be a good route to your goal may turn out to not even be close. This is why many get totally confused by going off the known route by even a bit. And, getting lost can turn out to be dangerous to your life. Since weather in the Rockies can turn on a dime, getting lost can be lethal, not to mention stumbling onto treacherous cliffs. It is always best, if you do not know the mountains where you are hiking, to at least have a guide who knows, or be able to read a map and compass quite well.
Life, metaphorically, follows a path through mountains. Your life may well be lived within the confines of civilization, but it contains the pitfalls of wilderness. Not every path is smooth, straight, or clear to follow. It is necessary to safely traverse wilderness if you must and always know where you’re going. But, in fact, you do not; since you haven’t yet lived all your days. You must have a guide who knows what he is about. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8) is One who does; in fact, there is no other. As Job anciently wrote, he is a mediator, who “lays his hand on us both,” both God and man, eternal and created. There is no other guide who can work. He knows the way that you take. In the Psalms, King David said of him, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path,” Psalm 119:105. David wrote out of experience, guided by the Spirit.
How comforting is it in the midst of traumatic wilderness, which life is, to suggest you simply read a book? Such instruction may not immediately calm your fears or answer your questions. It may at first seem woefully insufficient. How will reading the book of Micah, for example, tell you what decisions to make today in the twentieth century? Will reading the Word put food on the table? Will it heal an impending divorce? Will it tell you how to live tomorrow?
When you consider this, you must ask, has this really worked for others? Has it been the all-sufficient answer for which you seek? How long have people been reading his Word to find life-solutions? It is simply eye-opening to search out first-person testimony of believers and seekers who conscientiously read God’s Word. Look down through the many centuries and find too-numerous-to-count-saints who, no different than the way you would do it today, read, meditated, and prayed through his Word. It has been done over and over, month in and month out. If you are a regular reader of the Word, you join an illustrious cloud of witnesses through the ages. Not one has ever starved, not one has ever failed to find the One they were seeking.
Psalm 1 speaks of the preeminent success of the life of the person who delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night. It contrasts his/her life with the one who neither delights in the Word of God, nor even thinks about it. It does not enter their mind. The nature of his or her life is one amounting to so very little, no different than dry chaff blown away in the wind. Nothing lasting, nothing foundational, nothing putting down any roots by springs of water, nothing even worthy of someone’s memory. There are too many such lives. The answer of those lives are, as Dylan sings, merely “blowing in the wind.” Truly, truly sad!
On the other hand, the reader and delighter in God’s Word, produces a fruitful, inextinguishable life; prospering, permanent, eternal. You cannot imagine a more blessed life, nor one with greater hope for eternity. Read the Word!
“That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.”
(4th verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” 1529)